Job Interview Skills - Going for a Job
- Impact Factory runs public interview skills courses and one to one coaching
We also run personalised One-to-One Career Coaching sessions
for anyone who wants help improving their Interview Technique
How To Get The Perfect Job
- How do People Get Jobs?
- Your First Opportunity: Getting the Interview
- Interview Rules
- Preparing For a Job Interview
- Being Yourself Under Pressure
- Using Self-Disclosure to Create Empathy
- Help with Interview Nerves
- Prepare and Research for Your Interview
- Take Care of the Interviewers!
- Interview Follow Up
Going for a New Job?
Every once in a while something happens and our lives are shaken up. Sometimes we shake them up deliberately and sometimes outside forces come along and throw our world into a bit of a tailspin.
That's certainly what it feels like at the moment.
You are reading the most visited page on our website, and that's not just because of the current economic climate - though that certainly has a big impact. Given what's going on right now you may have been made redundant (or to use the irritating jargon, downsized or outplaced; whatever, it still means you're out of a job). Could be that people around you are being made redundant and work doesn't feel a particularly pleasant or inspiring place to be.
When people are fed up, need a new challenge, want more money, want a more conducive work environment they start reading the want ads, polishing their CVs, pounding the pavements and trawling the internet job updates and interview help sites like ours.
The current situation, however, does tend to mean that a whole lot of other people are also looking for new jobs, so you need to have a jump on the competition by presenting yourself at interview in the best possible light, no matter whether you've been made redundant or are looking for something fresh and motivating.
Even before we created Impact Factory 18 years ago we were helping people develop their careers, present themselves more effectively, identify their best skills and acknowledge their unique qualities, all with the aim of interviewing well and getting terrific jobs.
With our Impact Factory lives we continue to support individuals in building their confidence and skills which in turn enable them to go after their next job. We have Interview One to One Coaching, Presentation, Personal Impact, Body Language, Assertiveness and Leadership courses designed to help stack the job seeking odds in your favour.
Given our lengthy experience in career and skills development, here are some of our top tips for going for a new job.
How do People Get Jobs?There are six ways to get a job:
- Internal promotion
- Applying for an advertised job
- Word of mouth
- Nepotism (a form of word of mouth, with a familial twist)
- Going through an agency or using head hunters
- Identifying a company you want to work for, a career you want to pursue or a fantasy job you'd like to have and being pro-active about getting through the door.
They're all valid.
If your brother-in-law's second cousin knows the head of HR at a company you are really interested in, go for it!
Equally, if you want to go to employment agencies and try your luck that way, go for it!
Jo Ellen: "I'm a great fan of the sixth way of job hunting. It's one that many people don't think about and it does take courage. When I decided I wanted to move from the US to the UK over 25 years ago, I made a list of all the organisations I thought I might want to work for and wrote to each of them, told them when I'd be in the UK and asked for an interview. Of the 10 letters I sent, I got 5 interviews and one job. It works!"
Your First Opportunity: Getting the InterviewIf you want the job, chances are so do about a million other eager people, so your application has to stand out from the crowd. The majority of CVs are usually dull and boring, and people create them as historical documents, rather than as marketing tools.
Remember your CV has about seven seconds (yes 7) to make a visual impression. You can dramatically boost your chances of getting an interview by making your CV look and 'sound' special.
- Use good paper
- Design a personal logo
- Fiddle with the layout to make it easy on the eye
- Edit it ruthlessly (everyone always puts in too much detail)
- Highlight the bits that relate to the job you're going for
- They don't need to know you went to St Mary's School when you were 12!
- Put "Who you are now" at the beginning of your CV
- Leave education and qualifications for the end.
If you don't have what you think are the right educational qualifications, don't worry. Just leave them off. If you include enough interesting and intriguing material about who you are now, what you didn't do is far less important.
Put a short paragraph at the beginning that says something about your personal qualities and your business skills. A short statement about what you're seeking can also go down a treat.
As we know, a job for life is very rare nowadays, that eclectic, unusual and even inconsistent CVs are OK as long as they're presented well.
Depending upon the specific job you're going after, you can be as creative as you like. We've seen CVs presented as graphs, as poems, as drawings, as a route map, as a podcast; you name it, we've probably seen it.
Whichever route you choose, make sure your CV is pitched correctly for the audience who will be receiving it.
You might also think about rewriting your CV for specific jobs.
Robin: "When I was a working actor I had separate CV's for television work, stage work and commercials work. It was just a matter of rearranging the order of things to give prominence to the work that would be of most interest to each prospective employer, and it worked!"
You can do the same; highlighting certain areas of your CV to showcase the skills that will matter for the specific jobs you're going for.
You are what you seem! So what do we mean by that?
When we ourselves recruit for new members of staff we are absolutely appalled by the sloppy, unprofessional CVs we receive: misspellings, poor layout, bad grammar. Needless to say, our rubbish bins get filled quickly during our recruitment drives.
So a word of advice: proofread. No. Forget that. Get someone else to proofread your CV.
Make your 7 seconds matter.
You hear all sorts of rules about job interviews:
- People decide about you in the first 10 seconds
- You have to make a good first impression
- Always ask insightful questions
- Learn as much as you can about the company
- They'll probably ask questions designed to trip you up
- Have some quick answers to interview questions at the ready
Not bad, as far as rules go: some of them make perfect sense. But getting the job you want isn't about following rules or giving the right interview answer.
It's about presenting yourself in the most authentic way that takes care of you and the interviewers at the same time.
So many people chuck their interview chances away: they don't take enough care and interview preparation time so that the whole process is enjoyable, stimulating and informative for both parties.
So the CV worked. You've got the Interview; now what?
Preparing For a Job InterviewIf you have been invited to an interview it's a given that someone has, however briefly, looked at your CV. Something about you, or the way you have presented yourself has felt a good enough 'fit' to get you through the door.
Here's the key and the most important thing to remember before you go through that door.
- Unless they are simply going through the motions because they've already appointed someone, they want it to be you
They want to know their search is over, so for the length of the interview, the job is yours. Something else you need to make the most of.
Having said that, first impressions are incredibly important. People do make up their minds quickly so be yourself right from the start.
Of course you can turn up the volume on those bits of you that most match the job and turn it down on the bits that don't. This will help show you in your best light. However, never ever shut the volume off entirely, as you will then be pretending to be someone you're not - people can smell pretence and it is a sure recipe for disaster.
For the same reason it's not a good idea to lie!
You can be judicious with the truth yes, but lies have a tendency to return and bite you in the bum! Even if they don't actually know that you've lied they will sense something is not right. When you are under pressure it's virtually impossible not to give out the signals that tell your interviewer that something is wrong.
Even if you think your current job stinks, present the good points as though you were looking at the job from the outside in. Most jobs appear much better from the outside than they do from the inside (only you know the real truth); so pump up the goodies and soft-pedal the baddies!
However, we do know that being put on the spot can feel very uncomfortable, and it's easy to fall into a defensive posture. If you're not sure of the answer or feel boxed into a corner it's all right to buy time - including saying "I need some time to think about that."
No matter how nervous you are you do need to look after the people interviewing you. They will be looking for signs that you know how to communicate and relate to people. If you get stuck or tongue-tied ask one or two of the more surprising questions you have prepared.
Have a stockpile of anecdotes of past triumphs (and even a few disasters, as long as they're funny or the humorous side is apparent). This is not just a list of what you can do, but some personal examples that help paint the whole picture.
For instance, you could say "I successfully launched a new product for my company." Nothing wrong with that; it just doesn't tell anyone very much about you.
Or you could say, "Let me tell you about the new product launch I ran earlier this year with my colleagues. We had a very tight deadline, the venue was booked, the product was ready, but it was bringing all the elements together that helped make it a success. I'll explain my part in all this...." And off you go.
You're telling a story, not reciting facts. People like stories (as long as they are not long-winded and either too boastful or too self-deprecating) because they help show who you are as a person.
So right about now you'll be thinking"That's all very well for you to say, but just how do I do all this?"
Ok so let's take a pragmatic approach to interviewing here. Think about it for a second.
You've got through the door. They want it to be you. The job is yours to lose.
So the process you're in now is a test.
Their starting point will be this: "Well, it all looks good on paper, let's get them in and see how they look in person."
That is, by the way, how you will be viewed. Until they see you in person, until they see you walk and talk, until they can smell and hear you, you are an 'it'.
Interestingly, every time Impact Factory pitches for a new piece of work, it's like going for a job interview and the same 'rules' apply. Our intention is to bring our brochure and website alive. Your job is to bring your CV to life as well. That's why we mentioned stories a few paragraphs back: they will bring your CV to life.
Your first responsibility as the interviewee is to show yourself as a person
Let's be very clear here. They have information about you. If you've been clever at presenting your CV and application they will have expectations as to what sort of person you are.
Now they want to meet you.
Why? Because they want to know if they will like you, if you're someone they could spend working time with, if you're a good fit with the other people in the company.
Robin: "In the world of theatre, where I have spent a considerable time people don't just interview. They audition; they perform and are judged on their performance and you would think that the performance was the most important part of an audition.
"Nevertheless over and over again casting decisions are made on the basis of 'Can I work with this person?' 'Do I like them well enough to spend time (quite a lot of time) with them?' And surprisingly, often it is not the best actor for the part who gets it."
Presenting yourself isn't an 'act', nor is it a 'performance', but they do want to see how you perform. Confusing, isn't it?
Don't worry, there's more advice coming right up.
Being Yourself Under Pressure
Ok so the problem now is how to 'be yourself' whilst under this sort of pressure. It's worse than a first date.
So here is one of the tricks that successful actors learn (usually after having done hundreds of interview/auditions) that can help take away some of that pressure.
Treat the interview as the job.
The job is the interview, not what you will get if you do a good interview.
Simple. Give good interview.
And here are some other things that will help:
Psychologically you will feel better if this is not the only egg in your basket, so apply for more jobs than you need. You will find that if you have another interview lined up there is less pressure.
Wear something you feel good in. It is no good looking great if you feel uncomfortable. If you have an interview outfit it helps to wear it to one or two social events to bed it in.
Have something to say in answer to an open question. They will ask open questions.
Classic open interview questions are:
- Tell me about yourself
- What have you been doing lately?
- What made you apply for this job?
- Why should we pick you?
Prepare an answer that allows you to talk about something you've been involved in recently. Preferably something that has got you feeling really enthusiastic.
Be sure to bring in non-work-related stuff to the interview. Remember this is about being a whole person. Don't go on at too much length about the excitement of your Saturday bowls club, but do use anything from your outside life that might illustrate some of your skills and qualities.
Using Self-Disclosure to Create EmpathyWhat we mean by 'self-disclosure' is the giving or telling of something about yourself that is not actually necessary in order to answer the question.
There is nothing more important you can do in an interview than help give people a feel of what you are like and self-disclosure is the most powerful way to do it. This is an extension of relating stories.
With a little training this is not hard to do.
If they ask "Why do you want to be a nanny?"
You could answer:
- "I've always wanted to work with children"
- "Well two years ago my best friend Amanda had a little baby girl Sarah and when she had her christened she asked me to be her Godmother. Well of course I said yes, but as the christening came round and as I prepared for the ceremony I really started to think about Sarah and how important she was and how much we are all responsible for the well being of our children and it got me to thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life....
You get the picture?
What you say hardly matters. What matters is that you speak about something that you feel really strongly about. If you feel strongly about it you will sound enthusiastic, authentic, engaged and alive.
Help with Interview Nerves - You will be nervousThis again is a given, there is nothing wrong with being a bit on edge. If you use the approach laid out above the things you speak about will give you somewhere to channel that nervous energy.
Remember they are unlikely to give the job to someone calm, relaxed and laid back either. Too laid back and you will seem as if you don't care.
What makes everyone nervous about interview is the fact that they are going to judge you.
Absolutely they are going to judge you! This is supposed to happen. Remember, it's a test, so get some interview help or interview training and do some practise. You wouldn't dream of going to your driving test without studying the Highway Code, so treat an interview in the same way.
But remember also, you are interviewing them as well. The test is two way. If you can keep that in the forefront of your mind, it can also help settle interview nerves.
Prepare and Research for your Interview
Prepare to talk about something current, a TV programme, the election, the war, the weather, it doesn't matter what so long as it has affected you and you have a strong opinion about it.
Research - Look at their website
And again - LOOK AT THEIR WEBSITE.
Read our lips:
LOOK AT THEIR WEBSITE !
The number of people who have come to Impact Factory for interview and have not read our website is astounding. People care about their websites and they will give you masses of information (both good and bad) about the organisations you are applying to.
Think about these things:
- What does their website tell you about them?
- Why do you want to work for them?
- Think about what they need
- Who are their competitors?
- Are they well established?
- What do you want to know about them?
- What do you like about them?
They will ask at least one of the following interview questions
- What attracted you to xxx?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- Why do you want to work for xxx?
- What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses?
- How do you see yourself in xx years time?
- How do you like to work?
- What can you bring to xxx?
- Why should we employ you?
- What do you do outside work?
Yes, and sometimes they will even ask - What are your hobbies?
Have at least one question to ask them based on something you have seen in their brochure or on their website. If you can make it something you are genuinely curious about and include a compliment about the organisation so much the better.
Leave the Interview well.
Never apologise at the end of an interview. Even if you were a few minutes late arriving do your apology at the beginning, no need to remind them of it now.
Do smile at them as you leave the interview even if you feel like a Cheshire cat.
Act as if it has been a good interview. Say thank you to everyone. Say goodbye to everyone. Shake hands. Look at people and leave with a spring in your step.
Do all of this even if you think the interview has been a disaster. How you feel about your interview is unlikely to bear any relation to how you have done. Indeed, most people are the worst judges of how they actually did.
Take Care of the Interviewers!
You know, interviews are so nerve-wracking and stressful that most people's attention goes solely on themselves. In their heads there's an on-going monologue:
- How am I doing? Oh, damn, that answer was absolute crap. What did they just ask? I've gone totally blank, now what do I do? Maybe I shouldn't have worn the pink tie after all. I could really use the loo now. What if they ask me how much salary I want? Did I just say that? They're really going to think I'm an idiot.
And so on.
We can't completely shut off those voices, but we can help divert our attention away from them.
Pay attention to the things around you, notice things in the reception, the office environment. Comment about what you see.
Jo Ellen: "I remember going to meet a client and they had the friendliest most helpful receptionist I'd met in a very long time. Not only that, they had the company Values plastered all over the reception walls in a very creative, unusual and accessible way.
"The first thing I did when I sat down after the introductions was to compliment them on their helpful staff and the way they represented their Values. This wasn't grovelling; this was giving them genuine feedback on my own first impressions."
But what things like this do is to serve as icebreakers. They help to break down some of the interviewer-interviewee barriers and help you to put yourself at ease by engaging with them about something to do with them (it can put them at ease as well).
Of course, if you don't have anything good to say or haven't noticed anything outstanding, then don't make it up - then it will sound phoney and indeed, grovelling.
You can help take care of 'them' in other ways during the interview. The type of questions you ask is, of course, important. But you don't just have to limit yourself to questions. It's OK to comment on something they've said; try to get a dialogue going.
You'll know something is wrong if the interview begins to feel like a version of the Spanish Inquisition: Question, Answer, Question, Answer, Question, Answer. Dialogue means that both sides are engaged in the process.
Be bold in the interview questions you ask. Nothing wrong with asking question like:
- What's the most important quality you're looking for?
- Why do you think people like working here?
- Is there anything you think I should know that I've forgotten to ask?
When you make someone do a little extra work themselves, you help take care of them because you're engaging their creative process too.
Phew! Got through that; anything else I can do?
Interview Follow Up
At the end of your interview, if you haven't been advised, ask when they think they'll be making their decision. At least then you'll know how long you'll have to wait before you hear.
Many places don't automatically let people know if they haven't got the job; so one interview follow-up call is allowable. More than that and it can feel like badgering.
No matter how badly you think the interview went, if you want the job, always send a follow-up letter. Since most of us think of clever things to say after the fact, include one or two of those, referring to something specific from the interview.
Use phrases such as:
- 'I've given a lot of thought to our interview and...'
- 'Something you mentioned got me thinking...'
- 'What you said about _______ really struck home...'
If you don't get the job and you're curious why not, phone up and get some feedback. It may help you for the next interview.
We have loads of help available at Impact Factory, so click on any of these links to check out our public courses and training programmes:
Career Action - Interview One to One Coaching - Presentation Skills - Personal Impact - Body Language - Assertiveness Skills - Communication Skills - Leadership Development - Individual One to One Coaching
Or if you want to speak to a real person give us a call on +44 (0)20 7226 1877
Happy job hunting!
- Let us help you land that dream job.
Find out more on Interview One to One Coaching
We also run personalised One-to-One Career Coaching sessions
for anyone who wants help improving their Interview Technique